This Sunday is the 22-year anniversary of the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero, gunned down while celebratingMass at the Divine Providence Cancer Hospital in San Salvador. Oscar Romero was killed by graduates of the US ArmySchool of the Americas, members of death squads allied with US-trained Salvadorian security forces. In early 1990, aUS Congressional Taskforce was formed to investigate the massacre of six Jesuit priests and two others in ElSalvador. The taskforce reported that those responsible were trained at the SOA. Soon after, a group called the SOAWatch formed to piece together a history of the military school they began to call the School of the Assassins.
The former School of Americas, based in Fort Benning, Georgia, opened in 1946. It trained Latin American soldiers incombat, counter-insurgency, and counter-narcotics. The school’s opponents say SOA’s nearly 60,000 graduates areresponsible for some of the worst human rights abuses in Latin America.
In January 2001, after over a decade of vigils, fasts, and demonstrations against the school, the House voted to cutits funding. The army closed the School of the Americas and a month later, the Department of Defense opened theWestern Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHISC), which trains civilian, military, and law enforcementstudents with a curriculum similar to the SOA. Last year 683 students graduated from the newly-named school.
Today we are joined by the founder of SOA Watch, Father Roy Bourgeois, and by Colonel Mark Morgan, a spokesperson forthe Department of Defense who works closely with the WHISC, the current incarnation of the former School of theAmericas.
- Father Roy Bourgeois, founder, School of Americas Watch, an organization that works to close the School ofthe Americas/(WHISC).
- Colonel Mark Morgan, Department of Defense spokesperson who works closely with the Western HemisphereInstitute for Security Cooperation, the current incarnation of the former School of the Americas.